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NFL 2022 Scouting Combine: Defensive linemen to watch in Indianapolis

The defensive line group includes most EDGE rushers at the combine. Who will win the event and interest the New York Giants?

Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl - Georgia v Michigan Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Combine is a critical event that allows all teams to assemble for a week to collect as much medical data on draft-eligible players. The affair typically occurs at Lucas Oil Stadium at the end of February or early March; this year, it goes from March 1-7.

A necessary and more publicized byproduct of the medical assemblage are the measurements and athletic testing recorded for the potential draftees. Some combine invites attended the Reese’s Senior Bowl, so most of those players, other than Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett’s hands, are already measured.

The athletic testing portion of the combine consists of a 40-yard-dash (with 10 and 20-yard splits evaluated), a vertical jump, a broad jump, a 20-yard-shuttle, a 3-cone drill, and a bench press of 225-pounds till exhaustion. Prospects can opt-out of workouts and test on their pro day.

The combine groups EDGE players together with the defensive line and linebackers. Several “EDGE” players are listed in this “defensive line” category. Here’s a list of all the attendees for the defensive line:

  • Amaré Barno, Virginia Tech
  • Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
  • Thomas Booker, Stanford
  • Matthew Butler, Tennessee
  • Zach Carter, Florida
  • Micheal Clemons, Texas A&M
  • DJ Davidson, Arizona State
  • Jordan Davis, Georgia
  • Kalia Davis, UCF
  • Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
  • Noah Elliss, Idaho
  • Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
  • Neil Farrell, LSU
  • Jonathan Ford, Miami
  • Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
  • Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina
  • Logan Hall, Houston
  • Chris Hinton, Michigan
  • Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
  • Jordan Jackson, Air Force
  • Tyree Johnson, Texas A&M
  • Travis Jones, Connecticut
  • George Karlaftis, Purdue
  • DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
  • Jesse Luketa, Penn State
  • DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
  • Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
  • Marquan McCall, Kentucky
  • Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA
  • David Ojabo, Michigan
  • Esezi Otomewo, Minnesota
  • Joshua Paschal, Kentucky
  • Jayden Peevy, Texas A&M
  • LaBryan Ray, Alabama
  • John Ridgeway, Arkansas
  • Dominique Robinson, Miami (Ohio)
  • Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
  • Tyreke Smith, Ohio State
  • Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
  • Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
  • Isaiah Thomas, Oklahoma
  • Eyioma Uwazurike, Iowa State
  • Travon Walker, Georgia
  • Sam Williams, Mississippi
  • Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
  • Alex Wright, UAB
  • Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

I’m interested to see how some of the more notable names test and measure. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kavon Thibodeaux are the two prominent names of note; Purdue’s Geroge Karlaftis is another name to monitor. Karlaftis doesn’t possess the bend, burst, and flexibility of a Jermaine Johnson (FLST), David Ojabo (Michigan), or even an Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State), but Karlaftis will reportedly test very well at the event.

Positive athletic testing and measurables will help the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Karlaftis in a deep EDGE group with various pass-rushers.

More traditional defensive linemen also have some unique athletes. Georgia’s Jordan Davis is a 6-6, 340-pound defensive linemen who occupies a lot of space. He could be a first-round selection. However, from an athletic testing standpoint, I’m more interested in another defensive lineman from Georgia, Devonte Wyatt.

Let’s go through some the players to watch.

Defensive line

Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

Wyatt performed well at the Senior Bowl. He consistently won one-on-one reps with excellent lateral agility, burst off the snap, and enough bend to force opponents off-balance. Wyatt was on The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s Freak List - a list compiled of the most athletic college football players.

Wyatt is 6-3, 307 pounds with a reported 31-inch vertical jump, a 9-3 broad jump, and a 4.87 40-yard-dash. The 40-yard-dash would place him in the 70th percentile. His numbers will improve with the focus on specific training leading up to the combine. On a team with unchallenged athletic talent, Wyatt was the biggest “freak,” of them all, according to Feldman.

Logan Hall, Houston

Hall teeters with the label of defensive linemen or EDGE. He’s 6-5, 278-pounds with 33⅜-inch arms. He’s an aggressive rusher that tends to pop up out of his stance, but he has heavy physical hands that are relentless.

Hall joined Wyatt on Feldman’s freak list; he will reportedly test well. Hall’s Senior Bowl was solid; the violence in his hands was on display, but many defensive tackles stood out at the event.

Travis Jones, UCONN

Jones had to be one of the biggest risers at the Senior Bowl. Jones came into the Senior Bowl weighing 326-pounds at 6-4, with 34-inch arms and 10¼-inch hands. He was quick in short areas, and I’m interested to see exactly how he tests from an athletic standpoint.

He was consistently excellent on every practice in one-on-ones and in team periods. He was the focal point of UCONN’s defense; he had 25 pressures and four sacks in 2021.

DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

Leal played all over the defensive front for the Aggies. He recorded 8.5 sacks, 37 pressures, and 12.5 tackles for a loss in 2021; collectively, through two seasons, Leal had 13 sacks, 25 tackles for a loss, and 69 pressures.

Leal is 6-4, 290 pounds, and plays with high-pads at times. He packs a good punch with heavy hands and excellent quickness off the snap. He played a lot of EDGE in college but may be a better fit as a 3-T in an EVEN front, which would leverage his quickness off the snap.

Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma

Winfrey was the Senior Bowl MVP, and he consistently dominated throughout the week of practice. His ability to burst off the line of scrimmage was eye-popping, and he possesses the speed and range to make plays away from his original location. Winfrey is just an impressive overall athlete.

He wasn’t always jumping out on film at Oklahoma; he aligned a lot as a nose or a 1-shade (better suited for a 3-T role in an EVEN front), and he was in a deep rotation at Oklahoma. In his two seasons played there, he played more than 400 snaps in each but didn’t crack 500. Winfrey was 6-3, 303 pounds with 35½-inch arms at the Senior Bowl. If he tests as his film suggests, his name will continue to rise precipitously.

EDGE

Some “EDGE” rushers like USC’s Drake Jackson, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, and Minnesota’s Boye Mafe are listed as linebackers at the combine. All three are players to note and should test very well, but they will be in the subsequent defensive breakdown of the event.

The names I listed above: Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, Ebiketie, Karlaftis, and Ojabo, are all players of note. Here are other lesser-established players who could have a huge event.

Travon Walker, Georgia

There’s buzz around many Georgia defenders, but Walker could be the first selected from the bunch. Walker is 6-5, 275 pounds, with long arms and a violent temperament. He’s not overly refined as a player, but, in the right system, the potential is almost at a zenith level.

Reports suggest that Walker will dominate the combine; he will skyrocket up draft boards if that happens. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has Walker in his top 10 already; most other analysts aren’t quite there yet. I watched Walker and saw the potential. He wasn’t an every-down player because he played for Georgia, and he only has one true year of near full-time experience, but the thought of Walker on a team like New England or now the Raiders with Patrick Graham is just scary.

Josh Paschal, Kentucky

Kentucky used Paschal as a 4i-shade, 4T, or 5T often in their ODD front defense, but Paschal has the burst and speed to win around the edge from a wider alignment. He’s an explosive player in a dense frame that may lack ideal length off the eye test. Paschal jumped 39-inches in the vertical and had an excellent SPARQ score. He also ran 4.30 20-yard-shuttle. The vertical jump would be in the 90th percentile, and the short-shuttle would be in the 85th percentile for defensive ends.

Paschal had 38 pressures this past year and six sacks; he had 30-pressures and four sacks in the previous season. He’s projected to run somewhere around a 4.75 at 278(ish)-pounds. If he can maintain his previous athletic testing at that weight, and he’s longer than he looks on film, he could be a name that rises through the process.

Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati

Sanders was 6-4, 242 pounds at the Senior Bowl. His frame is thin with solid overall length (33¼-inch arms). Sanders was on Feldman’s freak list, and the primary reason could be his incredible burst when moving linearly. That burst could translate in the 40-yard-dash, specifically the 10-yard-split portion.

I am also interested in watching Sanders run the 3-cone and do some of the movement drills at the event. Sanders overall bend left some to be desired. Nevertheless, he’s one of these “defensive linemen” who could have a great event.

Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

Bonitto is an undersized EDGE rusher who is twitched up with excellent burst. Questions about Bonitto’s strength will haunt him in terms of being a consistent three-down player, but Bonitto can rush the passer.

According to Pro Football Focus, the 22-year-old had some of the best pass-rushing grades in the last two seasons. He had 16 sacks and 101 pressures in that period with 65 hurries. His get-off and short-area quickness, along with other athletic tests, should be excellent at the event.

Deangelo Malone, Western Kentucky

Malone is a member of Feldman’s freak list, and he was present at the Senior Bowl. He was 6-3, 234 pounds with 33-inch arms and 10⅛-inch hands. The weight will be problematic for some teams. Still, if he tests through Lucas Oil Stadium, he could continue his climb up draft boards.

Malone recorded 38 pressures with seven sacks in 2021. He took advantage of the fifth year offered due to COVID-19 and continued his domination. He finished his Western Kentucky career with 180 pressures, 37 sacks, and 182 STOPS.

Alex Wright, UAB

Wright is a gigantic 6-7, 270-pound EDGE with good athletic capability. Wright had 51-pressures and five sacks in 2021, with 43-hurries. His rare length combined with his apparent athletic profile makes him a noteworthy name to remember as we enter Combine week.